There's a term for the way I run: it's called RPE, or "rate of perceived exertion", and it's an actual measurement device used by exercise and medical professionals alike to determine how hard an individual is working. Simply put, it's how hard you feel like you are working, and can be broken down into a 1 to 10 scale as follows:
When I'm running, I'm almost always at an RPE of about 5 or 6. At the end of a race, or even for a larger portion of some 5ks at this point, I might push anywhere into the 7 to 10 range to "empty the tank" (or whatever is left), but I almost never try to sustain a pace that feels excessively uncomfortable. This means that every training run feels the same to me, but as my body adapts to the mileage and builds endurance, I find myself moving faster at the same level of exertion.
Running does get easier. The problem comes when you take the easier (ie, slower) splits and stop trying to improve. Sure, I could run 12 minute miles again and rate my runs at an RPE of 2, but running longer distances at a pace that constantly gets faster even when I add mileage is proving that my efforts are paying off. Adding things like hill training only speeds the process, as after climbing a massive hill, any flat run goes a lot faster for the same amount of perceived effort!
The sweet, sweet view from the top of that hill.
I know there are many people who run by pace; or, more specifically, run intervals or even whole runs at their goal race pace, to slowly adapt their body to running at that faster speed. Someday, I might try this, but until I have a much, much better base built up and feel comfortable running long distances on a regular basis, the plan is to stick with using RPE to gauge my running pace and to watch my average pace continue to drop! When that plateaus, we'll talk about how I plan to mix it up to restart my gains...
How do you rate runs, track progress, or plan your training? Are you familiar with RPE? Do you use it to gauge your workouts, whether it's running, strength training, or any other exercise?